Tag Archives: St Nicholas Abbey

The Irish Champion Stakes (Group 1)

I was there when Grandera pipped Hawk Wing by the slimmest of margins. When I walked out of the room in the top of the stand the hairs on the back of my neck had refused to go down. Distracted I walked too quickly bumping into an individual whose excitement levels were even higher than my own. With adrenalin pumping through my veins having witnessed a magnificent contest I just about got my head up to apologise to Sheik Mohammed.

That’s the capability of this race, it produces epic encounters in Indian summers. Galileo and Fantastic Light, High Chaparral and Falbrav.

This year Nathaniel comes to Leopardstown having won an Eclipse and going down so bravely in attempting to retain the King George when Danedream got the better by a nose. He displayed all the quality suggested in his maiden run when Frankel stretched a 1/2 L beyond him and maturity now only adds that extra ingredient to bring out the best in him.

Snow Fairy is an absolutely wonderful mare. Her classic season included two Oaks, Epsom and the Curragh as well as Group 1’s in Japan and Hong Kong. Last year was a little frustrating for connections having to wait until a return to Kyoto for the defence of the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup before registering her first win. She was also placed in the Nassau, here in the Irish Champion Stakes, the Arc and the Champion Stakes. This year she hit the ground running taking the Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville three weeks ago from the Gosden inmate Izzi Top.

The home defence in a race where the home team have dominated over the last ten years falls to St Nicholas Abbey. Again he’s a cracker of a racehorse. Two Coronation Cups and a Breeders Cup Turf in the bag. Again maturity has played it’s part showing the quality displayed in winning the Racing Post Trophy as a two year old has stood the test of time. Granted we watched Frankel pass him as if he wasn’t there at York in the Juddmonte though he battled for second only to lose out by a nose to Farhh. He’s never won over 10f albeit his first real attempt was at York so its intriguing Aidan asks him to come out here for another crack at the distance.

Born To Sea disappointed behind Famous Name in the Royal Whip having previously improved from race to race. John Oxx will be hopping that was an aberration and he can return to the road of improvement. The 2 L defeat to Camelot on desperate Curragh ground in the Irish Derby was a very good performance where he had Light Heavy 9 L further adrift.

Daddy Long Legs began the year in great style nailing the UAE Derby at Meyden in March. A trip to Kentucky for the Derby backfired and he was brought back to headquarters for the Irish Guineas where he finished a 2 L fourth to Power. He was brought back to the States for the Secretariat where tactics didn’t work out and he finished last.

The sun has shone for more than a week over Leopardstown and with the moisture retained from the summer deluge we’re guaranteed a beautiful surface. This should set up an enthralling duel when they turn into the straight. A more prominently ridden St Nichloas Abbey off a strong pace will fight it out. With him on the bend will be a closely knit field . Nathaniel, Snow Fairy and Born To Sea will chase but pace will tell and on the run to the line the stretching St Nick will just hold off the by the shortest of margins the sustained effort of Snow Fairy.

Indian summers again. No Sheik Mo to bump into, pity.

Recommendation : St Nicholas Abbey 4/1 win


The King George VI And Queen Elizebeth Stakes (Group 1)

The centrepiece of the European Pattern racing season is upon us. Would you believe the first half is over. It safe to say that Aidan O’Brien dominated the game from the beginning but a late sustained comeback from John Gosden has set up a fascinating second half. An early score here at Ascot for the Newmarket team will set up a pulsating finish but a Ballydoyle strike may close out the season long before the end.

Again the absence of the Azores high (please come back) means more soft ground. Will we ever see a decent surface again?

Tipperary might be a long way from Ascot but here last year 4 L was the distance that separated Nathaniel and St Nicholas Abbey. A lot has been made this week about St Nick handling a right handed track but this was not an issue last year. The issue then was pace, none early, then muddling. It didn’t suit him and when Nathaniel and Workforce went for home he was caught for toe. A pacemaker this year in Robin Hood means no repeat of that particular dose. St Nick has had six runs since this time last year capturing a Breeders Cup Turf and adding another Coronation Cup to the one he won last year. Nathaniel has only had the two runs, fifth in the Champion Stakes last backend and a win in the Eclipse two weeks ago. The performance at Sandown was stylish. He dominated and when Farrah came to challenge he always had plenty left.

Sea Moon beaten 2 1/4 L by St Nick in the Breeders Cup race has also looked classy this term. At Goodwood he accounted for Dandino with a head to spare and then went on to win the Hardwicke (surely should be upgraded to Group 1) beating Dunaden by 3 1/4 L.

The French horse has a bit to prove since winning the Melbourne Cup and Hong Kong Cup. He hasn’t troubled the judge in his three runs since. He didn’t get a clear run in the Hardwicke and would have got closer had he got some luck in running. Previously no pace beat him at Chantilly and it was a similar situation in the Jockey Club at Newmarket in May.

Danedream produced a stunning Arc victory last year in record time beating a top class field. She went east for the Japan Cup but a combination of a wide draw and an early bump were enough to knock her off her stride (finished sixth). She won a Group 2 on her comeback at home in Baden Baden before disappointing in the Grand Prix De Saint Cloud, a race again run slowly that turned into a sprint. She didn’t show the turn of foot she did in the Arc when she quickened off a fast pace. Even splits here will suit her better.

Brown Panther has been given a nice confidence booster with a 7 L win in a Pontefract Listed race having shown himself capable of mixing with them in the Ledger last year. His conqueror that day was John Gosden’s second string here Masked Marvel. He couldn’t cope with St Nick last time at Epsom. Reliable Man winner of the Prix Du Jockey Club and Prix Neil last year put up a good show behind So You Think in the Prince Of Wales ( picked up to run fourth beaten 3 L) and will like this ground.

Deep Brillante is a first runner in the King George for Japan. It’s great to see a horse come from the east. His connections sacrifice cash in favour of prestige. In winning the Japanese Derby he took home a cheque for £1.5m, nearly three times the win money here. Should he win he’ll be a national hero. We can’t judge the form but what we can say is that he did the mile and a half in Tokyo in a time 10 seconds quicker than Camelot did when winning at Epsom, albeit on firm ground. He also benefits from carrying the lightest weight as the only three year old in the race.

In the centrepiece pace should be even with Robin Hood and Masked Marvel expected to stretch stamina. It’l be set to wind up the runs of St Nicholas Abbey and Nathaniel. Sea Moon will try to stay with them and the three will run evenly nip and tuck to the line. With the pace even all three are venerable, finishers such as Dunaden and Deep Brillante might possess toe at the close but that toe might not be enough. The centerpiece needs a centrefold.

My blood runs cold, my Danedream is the centrefold. Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na .

Recommendation Danedream 10/1 ew

King Geroge VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Sponsored By Betfair) (Group 1)

One of the best races of the season is upon us. It has painted a rich trapestry of quality winners but also is capable of surprises. This year it’s attracted a small but select field.

Our understanding of this years, last years and the previous years generation will be defined by this event. The context of Rewilding’s victory over So You Think and the latter’s subsequent victory in the Eclipse. The brilliance of the St Nicholas Abbeys stunning two year old Racing Post Trophy victory and subsequent fall from grace. The class of Workforce’s Derby and Arc wins will all be measured here come 4.30 on Saturday. Throw in an Arlington Million winner in Debussy at an unconsidered 100/1 and we get some sense of how good a race this will be.

Nathaniel represents this years three-year old crop. On his first time on a racecourse he met Frankel, also making his debut, and only failed a 1/2 L. He was denied in the Chester Vase by subsequent Derby second and Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach by a head. He is already an Ascot winner over this distance having given a very good impression in the King Edward VII Stakes at The Royal meeting. The decision to pitch him in here rather than a campaign targeted towards the Ledger is brave and you can only conclude he must be showing a serious level of ability to his trainer John Gosden.

Debussy was in the care of the same man until last year and is a horse who has yet to demonstrate his class over a mile and a half. At 10 f he was a quality winner of the Million benefiting from 18 mm of rain on the track the night before. He came from off the pace demonstrating a great turn of foot to beat the American turf champion Gio Ponti. There was no fluke in that performance so don’t underestimate him. Last in the Prince Of Wales doesn’t read good but whacking the rail when in contention should be taken into account.

Rewilding is Godolphin’s main threat. A winner of the Shemma Classic, he put it up to So You Think in the Prince Of Wales coming out on top. Aidan O’Brien took the blame for the defeat and the form took the boosting it deserved in the Eclipse. It stands up.

So the big two. The market favoured St Nick at first but then swung dramatically towards Workforce. A piece of work last Sunday morning left watchers in awe and the market reacted. We already knew how good he was through last year performances but there is a niggle, he failed to fire in this race last year. It’s easy to forget that after Harbinger blew us all away but we must remember it’s the only time he has raced at Ascot.

And so to the king in waiting, St Nicholas Abbey. His three-year old career was a debacle which his trainer took full responsibility for. A fat horse in April did little to inspire confidence, come May and June we were beginning to believe again. At Chester he grabbed the ground relishing every step in a 9 L defeat of Allied Powers following up in Coronation Cup at Epsom over the this distance. The win over Midday was battling but a question mark exists over her subsequent defeat in the Pretty Polly.

So how will the race go?

The ground will be soft side of good with a possible further 4 mm of rain to come. We can rely on Debussy to set it. He will wind it up even and quickening. With the juice in the ground he’ll stay on the rail while those in search of a better surface will go under the trees on the far side. There will be a dismissal of the pacemaker by those on the far side and they will expect to easily pick him up rounding Swinley Bottom. As they regroup there will be plenty of horse in behind with all of them travelling. Every jockey will be confident knowing there mount will have the stamina to see it out. Debussy will either die or stretch with two furlongs to go. If he dies expect Ryan Moore will drive with Frankie in behind trying to get there. William Buick will be stretching and improving while the young pretender will have to demonstrate the ultimate coolness to hold his challenge till last. It could be young Joseph O’Brien might just be a chip off the old block when it comes to coolness and by playing late he could get there.

Then again, Debussy might not die. He’s a stone better on this ground and the others won’t like it like he does. Granted a stone may not be enough against these colts. The trip to the far side under the trees may well have been the play early doors but in the last furlong the concession of that ground could be crucial.

In the lung bursting last 100 yards….Debussy on juicy ground may just do, as in 1997, a Swain and produce another albeit much bigger surprise.

The Coronation Cup

This is one to relish. Midday and St Nicholas Abbey head a small field supported by Indian Days, Clowance and Dandino.

The latter proved himself a very capable handicapper prior to his step into pattern company. He had a run in the St Leger and then went to the Japan Cup where he was not beaten far. Two wins this season including a Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes brings here in top form. His stable companion Indian Days was four lengths behind is likely to improve on that performance. Clowance defeat of Poet in the St Simon Stakes now looks good after The Brigadier Gerard but a preference for some give in the ground will surely be against her. You would expect these three will play a supporting role in this particular drama where the leading man and the leading lady will take centre stage. Who will command that stage is the question.

Midday’s form has been top class with her own sex. A super win against Snow Fairy at York was last years highlight before being touched off in The Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs . Her comeback in the Middleton Stakes this spring showed her well-being promising another super season in front of her. She’s a winner of five Group 1’s including two Nassau Stakes, a Yorkshire Oaks, a Prix Vermille and a Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita in 2009. Her one blot in the copybook is not taking the honours when meeting the colts. Not that she’s had many opportunities. The only time she ventured out of her own sex was at Epsom in April 2009 when beaten in a listed race by last years Arlington Million winner, Debussy. It’s very interesting that Henry Cecil has chosen to return to the track for another crack at the boys.

St Nicholas Abbey brings an altogether different profile. This fella looked like a natural successor to Sea The Stars, as if you could such a successor, at the beginning of last year. As a two year old his Beresford Stakes win marked him out but his Racing Post win showed us something special. He was installed winter favourite for the Guineas only to flop trailing in sixth. Off course that flop was behind Makfi, Dick Turpin,Canford Cliffs, and Xtention who have since bagged seven Group 1’s over a mile since. Maybe its time to forgive him, though there wasn’t much sympathy for him after failing to sparkle on his comeback at the Curragh in April.

The excitement he generated as a two year old was reiginited in Chester’s Ormonde Stakes. A pulverising preformance when winning by nine lengths looked like he was back to his spectacular two year old days. Lets hope this continues for this lightly raced colt and we see a few more days of his brillance.

Who wins at Epsom today is not the issue. Its the style of the leading man and lady that will set the pulses racing. One to relish all-right.